Moving abroad with a family or even as a single parent can be (if you let it) stressful, but it can be done very successfully with careful planning and research. The decision is not an easy one to make, and it’s easy to go on holiday to a country then feel that you could live there, because it’s a holiday. You need to be clear that life can function well after the honeymoon vibe of the holiday is over. However, once you’ve made the decision the real work begins. Whether it’s for work, quality of life or simply a new adventure here are some top tips and things to consider on your venture into a new life and the unknown with your family, or on your own with your child(ren).
What’s The 411?
Research not just the area you have in mind, but country as a whole you wish to call your new home. Think outside of the box, health care, child care, job prospects, taxes, benefits etc. Be clear on the differences and similarities between your destination and home country. This can really help any parent to decide if the move is the right one, not just the right time. Make sure you know the full 411 on your new country, and how it could improve and potentially disadvantage you and your family. Make a list of the pros, cons, differences and similarities. When you notice a major difference that is a necessity to you and your family, be sure as much as you can if there is an alternative way to make life as plain sailing as possible. Then narrow down your research to the area you will live in the country. Visit the area as much as you can afford before you move, pay attention to the people, places, and how live-able it is for you and your family. Don’t let the twenty to thirty degree heat, beach, cocktails and wonderful views cloud your vision. See beyond the good weather, what’s the reality of the area? And how comfortable do you, and your children feel there? Is It safe? It could be suggested to visit in winter also. If you can handle the bad weather when the sunshine is out it will be even better.
Compare the school system of your home country to your destination. How do you feel about it as a parent? Beyond school, what prospects could there be for your child? Visit some schools where possible and pay close attention to the atmosphere. How do the children behave, how do the teachers behave? Do you feel welcome? Can you see your child(ren) being happy there? Most importantly is there a clear duty of care shown by professionals working in the school? If you have any doubts, this is not the right school. Don’t wait for your child(ren) to start school and then think about a change, if you know you have doubts at first. Clearly children do need to adjust. However, don’t feel that you are being too hasty by looking at alternative schools, sooner rather than later, if you feel they are/ will not adjust well at the school.
Earning a Living:
This is the biggest aspect for any potential expat with a family. You have mouths to feed including your own. Many expats have up and left with no work lined up in hope that ‘something will come up’, and successfully secure work soon. However, check out the economy and working conditions, rights, and job prospects in your new country. Can you work legally or need a permit to do so? Even consider working for yourself, do you have a talent that you could freelance with or is there a way you can continue your current job remotely?
With earning a living comes the cost of living. Compare the potential average wage for your job in your destination country, is it a good living wage that will allow you to maintain or hopefully improve your current quality of life? Cost of living is often a factor why may expats move aboard for a cheaper lifestyle and increased quality time.
Housing, Bills, City X vs City Y:
No matter how good your potential quality of life will be in your new country, you will have bills! While you can’t be sure how much electric and gas will be, you can get an idea about the cost of renting a home, buying a home, mortgage rates or even if you can afford to buy a home outright. The main thing is to be clear on how affordable housing and living generally is in your new country, and what area is the most cost- effective area to live, if you find your ideal town or city is out of budget. Research using a great city comparison site like Expatisan.com here, you can compare two cities or even two countries for the cost of living in all areas. Right down to the cost of a carrot! It will give you a % showing how much cheaper, or expensive it is in your destination. Keep in mind this is all based on inflation and currency changes, so your destination might be 50% cheaper to live today, but tomorrow if the exchange rate in currency changes so could this figure. For better or worse! It’s part of the gamble. That said, an overall idea on if life will be better can be gained with this site. Also, influence greatly whether you up and leave, stay put, or look for a new destination or city that’s affordable to live.
Other things to consider are
- Plan early if you are sure you and your family are ready for the expat life.
- Keep a list of things to do, a calendar of important dates.
- Research removal companies, don’t go with the first one you find.
- Set a date to move and plan each step toward the date. Aim to be ready maybe a week or two before the move so it’s stress free.
- Keep a diary and journal your experience, the fun part.
- Talk to your child(ren) often if they are old enough to understand the big move. Reassure them.
- Allow your child(ren) to bring as many important sentimental things as you can afford to ship. It is a good idea to allow them to have the same bed, toys, books and as much familiarity as possible.
- Start to learn the language as a family! Children under five pick up languages in no time. Try to teach them a few words and even to count before you go.
- Make the move fun for children, don’t focus on ‘it’s cheaper, we can afford it, the quality of life is better’ ‘I have a new job’ these are adult topics. If they are old enough you can explain the cost- effective reason but focus on the good it will do for you all as a family, rather than adult things children don’t normally concern themselves with on a day to day basis.
Pat yourself on the back for being brave, bold and fearless. Whether it is just you and the child(ren) making this life changing move, or you are supported with a partner or other family members, the fact that you are taking steps to improve your life, health, wealth and quality time with your children/family is a positive one. You may (depending on why you’re moving) miss home, but don’t look back, focus on the future and how you will create a new secure life for your family. Expat life is a great life! Children thrive in new environments when they are supported, loved and see their carers stress free and full of life. To live abroad and absorb a new culture, language, climate, and way of life is empowering, opens the mind, and brings about new opportunities you would never have had in your home country. Being bi-lingual also will do wonders for your career prospects, and your children’s.
For more interesting reading on expat life, learning, and languages see